The complex litigation over iron ore royalties resumed in court with Hancock Prospecting’s lawyer coming out swinging against claims made by Gina Rinehart’s children.
Hancock Prospecting barrister Noel Hutley today doubled down on blaming the company’s founder, Lang Hancock, for the transfer of assets that have been at the centre of the lengthy dispute, during his closing replies to John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart's claims from last month.
The Supreme Court of Western Australia trial has been ongoing since late July and resumes today after a week break.
Wright Prospecting and DFD Rhodes claimed they were owed royalties from iron ore produced on Pilbara mining tenements owned by Gina Rinehart-led Hancock Prospecting (HPPL) and Rio Tinto, known as Hope Downs.
Descendants of Peter Wright, founder of Wright Prospecting, also claimed part ownership in reserves within Hope Downs named East Angelas.
The dispute is further complicated by Mrs Rinehart’s eldest children John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart claiming the Pilbara tenements were part of shares and assets gifted to them from their grandfather.
The children claimed Mrs Rinehart knew but wrongfully transferred these shares and assets to boost her own stake, in their submissions to the court earlier in the trial.
Speaking to the court, Mr Hutley today said John and Bianca’s submissions were absurd and “just silly”, and claimed Mrs Rinehart was kept in the dark about her father's transfer of shares.
“The whole case from John and Bianca is ... inconsistent to the established principles of law and further unsupported by the evidence of the court,” he said.
“They submit that Lang removed Mrs Rinehart [as a director] because she wanted to be removed or otherwise was abusing Lang and wanted nothing to do with developing these tenements. Both are simply wrong.
“They assumed Lang was nothing but truthful in his communication with his daughter. We gave a few examples of the many times Lang was untruthful to his daughter.”
During their closing submissions earlier in the trial, lawyers for John and Bianca alleged Mrs Rinehart’s four children would ultimately have some control over the family trust that holds certain HPPL shares and tenements.
John and Bianca also alleged their mother knew about Lang Hancock’s transfer of shares and assets among his other entities.
In court, Mr Hutley said Lang Hancock transferred shares in Hancock Mineral Limited to Hancock Family Memorial Foundation so he could spend money on himself and then-wife Rose Porteous without restrictions.
Mr Hutley told the court that Lang Hancock breached his duties to his own company in transferring the tenements to the Hancock Family Memorial Foundation.
“Lang believed HPPL was his company and that he could do with it whatever he liked,” he said.
“Lang had no business in his entire life so far as the evidence discloses other than as the life governing director of HPPL. That was his sole occupation … and with that came all the duties.
“HPPL was not something Lang could do as he pleased. Lang legally was not the master; he was a servant of HPPL.
“Lang simply thought he could take what belonged to HPPL and put it in another construction, because he thought HPPL was a manifestation of himself.
“However, all of this of course was a flagrant breach of his fiduciary duties to HPPL, a diversion of HPPL’s corporate opportunities.”
Speaking to the court, Mr Hutley said inconsistencies always arose in John and Bianca's case.
"Their case, legally, is hard to understand," he said.
The trial continues.